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Early $400 TABOR refunds proposed for Colorado taxpayers

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Derek Draplin | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Over three million Colorado taxpayers will receive $400 refunds under a plan announced by Democrats Monday.

The refunds must come under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), the constitutional amendment passed by voters that requires money to be sent back to taxpayers in years with excess revenue. Lawmakers determine how that money is refunded back to taxpayers. 

"Rather than sit on this money, we know that $400 will help people now," Governor Jared Polis said during a news conference. 

A bill set to be introduced in the legislature would advance the payments, which are from fiscal year 2021-22 revenue, before the November election rather than being paid out in spring 2023.

Full-time Colorado residents who filed their tax returns by May 31, 2022, would receive the payments in August or September. Joint filers will receive $800 payments.  

"We're doing this right now because the moment calls for it," the governor added. "The number one issue facing the people of Colorado is rising costs."

The Colorado Office of State Controller first said in a report from September that taxpayers would see refunds from fiscal 2021 revenue collections. 

Colorado Treasurer Dave Young said at the news conference on Monday that his department "will ensure that there is sufficient cash flow to successfully issue TABOR refund."

Democrats have in the past tried to retain excess revenue for state spending instead of refunding the money back to taxpayers. In 2019, Colorado voters rejected a Democratic-backed ballot measure that proposed allowing the state government to retain excess tax revenue permanently.

Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown called the Democrats' plan an "election year TABOR flip-flop." 

"I'm happy that Jared Polis and the Democrats in the state legislature have publicly reversed course and are now joining Republicans in touting the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights," she said in a statement. "For years, these same Democrats have worked to undermine TABOR and fought to increase fees and taxes on everyday Coloradans. However, I'm pleased to see their apparent change of heart, even if it is clearly just an election year game."

House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, said the Democrats' plan is an "attempt to 'gift' Coloradans with their own money" during an election year.

"But these much needed dollars are not a gift or a refund – these are dollars that belong to Coloradans," he added.